Rick’s “Fathers’ Day” Mixed Grill

Mixed grillWhen we were on holiday in Burwash, East Sussex, way back in 1993, it was our June 12 anniversary, and we were looking for fine dining to celebrate.  We had Auntie Freya with us to watch the kiddos, so we had high hopes, and we had scouted out what appeared to be the only restaurant in town that wasn’t one of the three pubs. Sadly, when we went to make a reservation, it was closed, night off, bank holiday or whatever.

Not to be deterred we turned to the usually reliable English pub for a back-up. The high street in Burwash isn’t very long, and was then anchored by a pub at either end and one in the middle. The one in the middle seemed busy so we went there.  It had “Mixed Grill” on the menu.

If you have never had a mixed grill in the Uk, you have missed out on something special and will probably outlive those of us who have had one. As the name implies, it consists of several grilled items, typically a lamb chops, pork chop, or both, an inexpensive beef steak with a fried egg on it, a sausage, a grilled tomato, and served with chips (fries) and baked beans (’cause you can never have too many carbs, amirite?). It was my anniversary, so I went for it. I was not sorry.

If your  Dad is a vegetarian, I respect that (more or less) and this is not for him. But I was with my brother and his two sons last week, and my oldest nephew had just announced he is starting a new generation in that branch of the family. None of our dietary prudent wives were in attendance, so I thought mixed grill. I served in with the New York Times recipe for Southern Macaroni and Cheese, which is a meal in itself.

The idea is that everybody gets one of everything on his plate. I substituted Portuguese linguicia and chorizo for the Cumberland sausage. I substituted the beef for chicken, you know, for health. Just kidding. Enjoy. Happy Fathers’ Day! Serves four Floyds boys.

Ingredients

4 center cut loin pork chops

4 loin lamb chops

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

4 sausage links (see above)

2 tomatoes, halved

Recipe

Fire up your charcoal or gas grill. Rub the chicken with your favorite dry rub (mine is salt, pepper, chili powder, brown sugar, paprika, onion and garlic salt.) Put the chicken on first. Let it get some grill marks and then put it on the non-hot side of the grill.  The thighs will take up to 30 minutes, so hold back the other items for awhile. The lamb chops come next, as they are forgiving if cooked closer to medium ( I just salt and pepper them.) The pork chops come next and need attention so they don’t dry out. I put a little barbecue sauce on them toward the end. The sausage I used was pre-cooked, so I just needed to get some grill marks and heat them up. Serve one of every thing on each plate. We drank Malbec and Tempranillo with it but a cold beer would be what they would drink in Burwash!

Plate

Rick’s Summer Tabbouleh Salad

TabboulehI had never had tabbouleh until I met my wife’s family in my early twenties.  It was a staple of their summer picnics and I loved it. I seldom make it, as I was reminded yesterday by my unopened Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur with a 2012 sell-by date. A quick trip to Guido’s for new bulgur and I was ready. We had friends over for a Mediterranean dinner last night. We started with pita, hummus, feta and mixed olives, some nice Rose from Provence. Then I made grilled marinated butterflied leg of lamb and grilled veggies with the tabbouleh. Summer dining on the back porch at its best!

Ingredients

1 cup bulgur

2 cups boiling water

4 ripe tomatoes finely chopped

½ red onion finely chopped

½ cup fresh mint finely chopped

½ cup fresh dill finely chopped

1 cup fresh parsley finely chopped

The juice of one lemon

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

A dash of ground allspice

Salt and pepper to taste

Recipe

Put the bulgur in a good-sized bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Invert a dinner plate over the bowl and let it sits for 30 minutes. Strain the bulger through a big fine sieve until most of the water is gone. Return the bulger to the bowl. Add the chopped ingredients. Make a dressing by whisking the lemon juice and olive oil until it thickens. Add to the bowl. Season with salt, pepper and allspice and toss well. Serve at room temperature.

Rick’s Vietnamese Pork Chops

Pork chop

We had a great little Vietnamese Restaurant nearby and their pork chops were one of the best things on their menu. Sadly, for us, the family that ran the place retired and moved to Florida. I’ve found several recipes and this is my take. Serves four.

Ingredients

4 bone-in pork loin rib chops about an inch thick

½ of a small onion or the white part of a couple scallions, finely chopped

½ cup of Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce

4 TBS brown sugar

2 TBS rice vinegar

1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 TBS peanut oil

Recipe

Add fish sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and pepper to a small bowl and whisk well to make the marinade.

Poke the chops through with a fork in several places, so they will take the marinade. Put the chops in a freezer bag, add the marinade and turn the chops to coat. You can leave them on the counter for at least a half hour (or overnight in the refrigerator.) Turn them over from time to time.

Add the oil to a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Scrape off the marinade and put the remainder in a small pot and bring to a boil, and simmer to reduce. Wipe the chops with a paper towel.

Cook the chops until they are well browned, about four minutes to a side.  Serve with the marinade sauce, Jasmine rice, and lime wedges. An Asian beer would go nicely. Or a sturdy red wine.

Rick’s Pork Tenderloin with Garlic Honey Sauce

A pork tenderloin is an inexpensive, delicious dinner that can be put together in very little time. For this recipe you need a big pan that can start on the stovetop and be finished in the oven. I have a 14-inch well-seasoned cast-iron pan that does the trick. You’ll want your kitchen fan on high during the initial searing.

Ingredients

Pork tenderloins (they come two to a package)

2 TBS peanut oil

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

Kosher Salt

Black pepper

Paprika

Sauce

!/2 cup honey

1 TBS soy sauce

1 TBS Chinkiang Vinegar

1 TBS Chinese rice wine or Saki

2 Tsp Dark sesame oil

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside. Sprinkle the tenderloins with salt, pepper and paprika.

Set pan over burner on medium high heat until it is very hot. Put in the oil and when it starts to smoke sear the tenderloins all over, until they are nicely browned, about three minutes per side.

Turn off the burner and toss in the garlic and stir it in the hot pan for about 15 seconds (don’t burn it!) Give the sauce a final stir and add it to the pan, coating all sides of the pork.

With a couple good potholders carefully put the pan in the oven, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until internal temperature is 150 F. The tapered ends will be medium and the center will still be pink. Something for everyone! I would serve this with rice and apple sauce or chutney. Or baked beans.

Remembering Luther C. Pierce (1924-2021)

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I recently learned that my friend, colleague and former congregant, Luther Pierce died last month in Gainesville. FL, just weeks shy of his 98th birthday.

When I first met Luther, he was already retired from a long ministry in CT, and was living in Cummington, MA. He was serving two little churches part-time in the hill towns of Western, MA, Peru and Worthington.

We first met at the home of Max and Jean Stackhouse, who hosted monthly dinners for area clergy at their home in the Berkshires. Luther was also the New England development representative for Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico. He convinced our congregation to include the school in the mission portion of a capital fund campaign.

Later, when Luther really retired, he and his wife Fran started attending the church I served in Pittsfield, the First Church of Christ, Congregational. and later joined and became active members of the church. Luther frequently guest preached for me, and was a supporter of me and my ministry. Now that I am retired, Luther remains a model and guide for how I try to support my own pastor.

In 1995, when I had a sabbatical at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, Luther was the interim minister. Everybody loved Luther.

Luther had a passion for world missions and later became the chair of our mission committee at First Church. He was active in mission and stewardship work in both the CT and MA Conferences of the UCC. In CT, he chaired the Department of Mission and Stewardship for several years. Before he retired he had visited over forty countries, often visiting the missionaries around the world.

Before he became a pastor, Luther was a chicken farmer, a pilot, a Christian educator, and the executive of the Greater Miami Council of Churches.

He had gone to Bucknell University, a Baptist college, and one of his classmates was United Church of Christ theologian, Gabriel Fackre, who was also a Baptist at the time.

Luther was locally ordained a Baptist and later, with help from his old friend, Gabe, was received into the United Church of Christ. He served UCC churches in FL and CT.

Luther was one of those omni-competent guys that could do most anything. He built his retirement home in Cummington with his own hands. The front of the house was all done in local stone. He gardened, raised chickens, and had a woodworking shop where he made things to sell at church fundraisers. He started a small press to publish his writings, Birch Hill Press, and he published one of my books.

Luther and Fran were wonderful hosts and great cooks. Their table was spread with food that they had grown or made themselves. Fran was a delightful southern belle from Alabama who Luther had met when he was on his way home from military service. It was a love match; they were married for 66 years.

Luther was one of the most intellectually curious and best read people I have known. He went into the ministry after being in business and never attended seminary, something he regretted. His ordination was a local ordination in the Baptist church he was serving at the time, and when he came to the United Church of Christ he was given a rigorous course of study before he was accepted. It is ironic that he was better versed in the theological disciplines than most clergy I have known. He and I read many books together and talked about them, including a couple of tomes by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, who I had studied with during my Oxford sabbatical.

In August of 2000 I had a catastrophic bicycle accident while riding the Greylock Century Ride. It was on the Saturday that our church held its annual Blueberry Festival, and I had opted out for the ride. I called Luther from the Berkshire Medical Center to tell him I couldn’t come to church the next day, and to ask him to fill in for me. He quickly assured me he would see to it, and then he gently said, “You should have come to the Blueberry Festival!”

I always thought he had the coolest name for a Protestant pastor: Luther Calvin Pierce, and I told him so. He looked sheepish and said, “My folks chose my middle name out of admiration for Calvin Coolidge.”

Luther was a faithful and wise pastor who walked the walk as well as talked the talk. He was a great human being, and a good friend. I thank God for him.

His service is this afternoon down in Gainesville. I can’t be there so I wrote this.

Charge to First Church of Christ in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

November 21 , 2021

First

(I served this congregation as their pastor from 1982-2004. I am Pastor Emeritus there. The congregation voted recently to put the 1853 meeting house up for sale. The upkeep on this splendid Victorian Gothic Revival building was requiring a large share of the congregation’s resources, and limiting other mission and ministry options. We met today to remember and celebrate our years in this lovely building. I was invited as the longest tenured living pastor to give a charge to the congregation at the close of the service. Here it is:) Continue reading

The American presidency: two new books

Having barely survived the four years of the Trump presidency I am reflecting on how this unique institution impacts our democracy. There are two new books out about the American presidency, Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, and last year’s book on the presidency of Jimmy Carter, His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life by Jonathan Alter. Both are published by Simon and Schuster.

Continue reading